Millions of Jews around the world are fasting tonight (Saturday July 25), observing the Fast of Tisha B’Av — the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av — as they mourn the destruction of the two ancient Jewish Holy Temples of Jerusalem.
Thousands have gathered to weep and pour their hearts out at the sole remnant that still exists from the Second Temple — the Western Wall — in the Old City of Jerusalem.
This year’s crop of Chabad-Lubavitch “Roving Rabbis” found the young rabbinical students and newly graduated rabbis in far-flung corners of the globe.
The fast commemorates more than just the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem; it also marks the subsequent expulsion of the Jewish People from their Land and a millennia-long Diaspora and numerous other national Jewish tragedies as well. Although it is one of the two gravest fasts on the Jewish calendar, the actual fast was deferred because it fell on the Sabbath; thus the fast was observed Saturday night and Sunday.
Rabbi Peretz Lazaroff is among the new rabbinic globetrotters, along with Rabbi Yisroel Wolff. The two are on the Caribbean island of Curaçao with a local congregation that is bereft of a rabbi.
Lazaroff told Chabad.org last week they had not yet ironed out the details of where they would spend their meals before and after the fast. Regardless, he said, “we will certainly be in the synagogue with the very lovely people we’ve been meeting since our arrival, and we are doing our utmost to muster up a minyan so we can hold full services. If not we will still be able to observe the central element of the evening: reading the Book of Lamentations.”
The Book of Lamentations is the recitation of the prophecy delivered by Jeremiah about the horrifying destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple by Nebuchadnezzer and the story of the Jewish People being taken to Babylon in chains as slaves.
It is a long, graphic and terrifying tale and one that eventually inspired community leaders to throw Jeremiah into prison, rather than heed his warnings – to their eternal regret later on.
When the Jews were later dragged into slavery by the victorious Babylonians, Jeremiah wept and tried to accompany them but was forced away by Nebuchadnezzer. The retelling of the prophecy is chanted each year on the night of Tisha B’Av.
In some cases, it will be the task of the “Roving Rabbis” to lead the reading of Lamentations in the communities where they end up.
Rabbi Nosson Huebner and Rabbi Yecheskel Posner are in the Chabad House in Lima, Peru, making a pit stop on a six-week tour of the country. For these two rabbis, such a tour means checking out towns and cities to find Israeli backpackers and other Jewish tourists who might be in need of Jewish resources. While on the road they will have to improvise, so their before- and after-fast meals may be the only full kosher repasts they will have until they return to the city next month.